The Thurrock constituency is one of the most marginal in the UK: Tory MP Jackie Doyle Price has held the seat since winning it from Labour in 2010, but her majority has gone from 92 to 536 and back to 345. So it might be thought that she would take special care not to get on the wrong side of any significant group of constituents. But, it seems, that thought would have been misplaced when it comes to the Taxi trade.
Jackie Doyle Price
A significant number of London’s black cab owners live in the area: this may not be unrelated to the lower cost of housing, and easy commuting distance to London’s new financial district around Canary Wharf. With this in mind, Ms Doyle Price was reminded via Twitter that she had quite a few cabbies on her patch. Would she be writing to them following the revelations on how Uber’s path to an operator’s licence was smoothed?
Moreover, would she be taking the matter up with the Government - of which she is a member - on their behalf? With a majority of just 345, and Labour looking to capitalise on the Tories’ dwindling popularity, especially in London and the Home Counties, it looked like a win/win for her. Sadly, though, Ms Doyle Price chose not to engage with the Taxi trade, but to suggest they run along and talk to someone else instead.
Cabbies have many good reasons to lobby their MPs at present, not least the Uber saga, and the associated question of tax relief on fuel, which may be being allowed disproportionately to Uber and similar operators. So their disappointment, typified by one Tweeter who observed “We were naive to expect our elected representative to take up arms on our behalf”, was understandable. Ms Doyle Price’s reply was not.
“I have given you the best advice I can. Your time would be better spent following it than trolling me”. Er, hello? Mark White was unimpressed. “Do you really think it’s acceptable for the PM’s advisor to tell @TfLTPH to ignore safety regulations in favour of Uber, whilst your taxi Driving constituents (who you call trolls) watch their livelihoods get decimated?”
This fell upon stony ground. “I have advised all my constituents who I know to be cabbies with by letter. I have tackled uber, TfL and DTP. Your fight is not with me”. No-one was asking for a fight, merely that their elected representative be in their corner. White pointed this out to her. “We’ve a number of @The_LCDC members who are your constituents. They have written to you asking for a Public Inquiry in to the pressure put on @TfLTPH & sent us your template reply. Is that your best advice: ‘Go to the [Police]?’”
Did she think it might now be wise to reconsider her stance? Well, not as such. “And they have all had a reply from me giving my best advice. Not the best tactic to pick a fight with someone who is trying to help you”. So that’s a No, then.
It’s one of those occasions where you have to pinch yourself. This really is the response of an MP with a majority of just 345, taking an offhand and dismissive attitude to a trade whose members, and their families, make up a significant part of her electorate.
What happens at elections when you diss your voters
As they might have said in the MasterCard advert, for cabbies there’s the long road of FoI requests, nudging the press and broadcasters, and making their case as best they can. For Jackie Doyle Price, there’s the ballot box. It’s as if she wants to lose there.